Perhaps one of the greatest things about listening to Wild Nothing is being aware that the project began as an intimate bedroom affair, possibly not even meant for mass consumption. But, as with all good things, it’s made its way to our ears, and with Nocturne the sounds have become more fleshed out, creating a more dynamic sound that bodes well for Jack and friends.
With a title like Nocturne, you immediately get a darker image than what you might have gotten from the early works such as Gemini. “Shadow” works with that meaning, both in title and in its emotional pull. Sure, there’s still a bit of an angular guitar chiming in, but the lush string arrangements bring out an undercurrent of heavier sentiment. Similarly, the title of “Midnight Song” implies the exact sentiment, but there’s something more energetic lurking here. I’m not sure if it’s the guitar sounds, or Jack’s vocals, but I feel as if there’s more emphasis in this tune; it’s a personal standout for me.
But, one of the things I like from this new recording by Wild Nothing is the smallest of tweaks that demonstrate a branching out of sorts for the group. If you skip through the album to “Paradise” you’re going to find an entirely different guitar line than what you’re used to from the band. It’s almost as if Jack switched up his homage to C86 bands, trading it in for some Northern Soul guitar licks. That being said, the electronic wash present on the track, and the deeper vocal tones still tie it nicely into the thematic darkness of the entire album. It’s a good song to contrast with earlier numbers like “Only Heather,” which gains its energy from the frenetic pace of the drumming here. I can see how the vocals have a similar weight to them, but the guitars are much brighter, and your toes won’t be able to avoid a bit of tapping as you listen to the record at your desk.
Personally, I think there’s sort of a magical quality to Nocturne, and I don’t mean in the sense that it’s going to possess your soul, though it just might. Lyrically and emotionally it seems to carry with it an other-worldly quality that combines bits and pieces of the group’s earlier works with touchstones of its contemporaries. Yet, with all those bits and pieces, something inevitably captures you, pushing your thoughts beyond the mundane. Perhaps wistful is a fitting term to use here, as the title and the mood are affected by a feeling of sadness; I honestly don’t know how to put my finger on it, but I think listeners will completely understand the sentiment after a few runs through.
For those that expected Nocturne to be a complete return to where Wild Nothing left off with Gemini, you might be disappointed. It’s definitely an album consumed by the nature of the title, offering a fair balance between beauty and the vague hints of darkness. Light splashes of energy come and go, but what you’re left with is a record that immediately transports you beyond your status quo; such is the quality of truly great music that can consume us wholly, yet still maintain its intimate qualities.
Download:Wild Nothing – Paradise [MP3]